Applying the atonement

I think one of the hardest things for members of the church, especially those that have been in it their whole lives, to truly get is how to apply the atonement of Christ in their life. Members may often view the atonement as something that only comes into place ‘after all we can do’ rather than throughout our lives at every moment. Moreover, members may view perfect obedience of the commandments as a prerequisite to having Christ’s atonement active in us. This perspective leads individuals to feel flawed, lost and forever removed from God’s grace.

 

The truth is far different of course. Having been baptized into his church, born or entered into his covenant and having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have become his children and Christ is our advocate. He is consistently pleading and praying for us to have the faith we need. His atonement is continually working even on those that are struggling or can not comprehend

“3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him–

4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”

Christ knows that we do not have perfect faith. Remember…He knows our weaknesses perfectly. Long ago, as his time upon the cross approached, he reminded one of his chief disciples that he was praying for him to have enough faith to deal with the challenge that would come his way.

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

 

I testify that Christ likewise prays for and on behalf of each of us. He prays for those whose faiths are struggling and his atonement is ever ready to help.

Moreover, being bearers of the Holy Spirit means that even in those times when our faith is lacking and we know not what to say or what to pray for, Christ is still interceding with us through his Holy Spirit 

 “26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaningswhich cannot be uttered.

 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8).

I testify that Christ and his atonement are continually active in each of our lives, whether or not we fully appreciate it. The atonement is real and it does work. God loves us and Christ cares for us even when we are stubborn or faithless. We are never beyond the reach of his tender arm which is ever beckoning to us.

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Being on the wrong side of history

In the past few weeks, we have seen a major change in public sentiment on gay marriage. Notable senators such as Republican Rob Portman have come out in favor of gay marriage. In November for the first time 4 states voted in favor of gay marriage or against restricting it. Polls suggest that majorities now favor it. So many pundits have suggested that those that oppose gay marriage are on the “wrong side of history” and that 20 years from now we will be looked back on as bigots and the equivalent of those that defended slavery or segregation. 

I don’t really deny any of that. The tide of public opinion has swung dramatically. The viewpoint of traditional Christians is more and more pushed aside to the margins. I realize every time I comment against gay marriage that I am closing a door. Already, I have lost good friends because of my position and  I realize that opposing gay marriage vocally will make it harder for me to get hired in the future.

And yet, I have covenanted with God to speak out and share my faith in all times and places and ways. That is true even if it means being unpopular or going against conventional wisdom. Having only come to this position after long prayer and consideration…I simply can not do otherwise. I have written in depth about my struggling over this issue and those who know me know how conflicted I have been over this topic. Yet, I feel my conviction actually increasing as I see the tide of public opinion turn against me. 

Some things are true no matter what history writes about them. Truth will win out in the long term even if in society we see a march in the opposite direction. Marx was certain that history was on the side of communism and yet in time communism failed. More importantly, Christ was on the ‘wrong side of history’ and yet he will one day come again and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is in fact the Christ and savior of the world.

I do not do so out of hatred for people that have homosexual tendencies. I want deeply for them to feel loved in society. I want tolerance to prevail. And yet, I know that the recognition they seek now will damage the institution of marriage and will take away rights from believers. I know from the words of the prophets and from my own observation that the result will be oppression and hatred towards believing individuals. That I can not countenance or support. I wish for a middle ground and yet those most vocally agitating are increasingly vocal that it is their way or no way at all.

The Supreme Court is hearing the Prop 8 case today. I pray that they will have the wisdom to see a way through this culture war and to reach a result that will be equitable for all. Unfortunately, I don’t really see how. Whoever prevails, the battle will go on. And so, even though I fight reluctantly still I march onward. God and not history will ultimately be the judge of my conduct. God and not history will decide who is right.

Fireside- Using Social Media to Share the Gospel

Tonight my stake had a Fireside about how members can effectively use the internet and social media to share the gospel. Since this is a topic I care a lot about, I was excited to attend and wanted to share what was said and my thoughts.

The speaker, Jacob Black is the Manager of social media and emerging technology for the Church. He was really well versed in all of the various internet technologies and his presentation was quite effective. He asked us explicitly not to live blog or tweet about a couple of particulars. The most exciting was a comment about the level of excitement with which the leaders of the Church view the online work and especially the potential for Mormon.org in Europe. I am so excited to be a member of the church at this time and to be able to share the gospel using such incredible tools 🙂

____________________________

Notes from the talk

75% of members have negative feelings associated with missionary work. A lot of negative feelings and emotions are associated. 

He wants us to feel optimistic about the possibility for to share the Gospel. In our age we have greater power and also a great responsibility to share the gospel.

Elder Ballard- Hawaii commencement talk Dec 2007 – Urging members to engage in conversations about the church. Change perceptions one conversation at the time.Participate using new media. Share in simple, clear terms. 

 

2009 Research study of perceptions of the church..-

Negative – Non Christian, Cultish, Controlling, Secretive, Weird, Pushy, Anti-gay, Racist

Positive- Family oriented and Dedicated

Talking about Mormon.org we watched the videos of Jenna Kim Jones who works for the Daily Show, also the video of Paris who grew up in the south ( I actually met him in the MTC and his mission experience was getting filmed), and of Brandon Flowers of the Killers. 

 

I love these videos because they are so powerful and show the diverse perspectives of members. I love how much joy the individuals portrayed show and how clear it is that their faith helps them.

The videos are all screened by several 70 and even two members of the twelve and members of the presiding bishopric.

Elder Nelson video about creating a profile. 

We went through the different features of Mormon.Org and talked about some stories of people who found the Church through Mormon.org. Someone from the Pacific Island who chatted online and within 10 minutes had missionaries at her door. Another one who chatted with an online missionary and she actually came to Provo to be baptized.

352,800 chats

126,780 Profiles (Kind of low)

250,000 Started but not completed. 

20, 842, 865 visitors in the last 12 months

48, 870, 506 page views

He went and saw the Book of Mormon musical and while there passed along pass-along cards and invited people to the temple open house in Calgary. He ran into this couple again after the show, and they agreed to go to the temple open house. 

Elder Holland endorsed using these cards 🙂

 

They will be doing TV Ads soon including one with Alex Boye

 

Expandable Banner Ads or Pre-Roll Banner Ads on Hulu or Youtube- “I Believe motherhood is the loudest messiest and best job in the world.”

Controlling the keyword Mormon on google search

Mormontopics.org Answering really important questions ( We watched the ones about Garments)

Using Social Media- Elder Perry quote about utalizing social media from October 2011

  • Add your voice to the conversation
  • The information we have to share is the most important in the world.

1.42 million likes which gives a reach of 193 million people if everyone shared something on Facebook. (10% of the world population). From 33 different countries. 

 

Youtube over 33.5 million views of the profiles. 

Twitter 38,900 Followers

Google +

 

Sharing such simple statements of faith can start a cascade that can change a life…

 

NYC Taxi Ads and Banners

 

Zach Braff tweeted about Mormon.org ads saying that Jews need ads.

 

Christmas Ad in Times Sqaure/ New Years ad

 

Colbert Report

Book of Mormon musical playbills- 

The London/UK Initative

Tomorrow Mormon.org.uk is Going live!

Going to take over Charing Cross station and have 200 double-decker busses. Videos with British Mormons. 

 

 

Latin America Easter Initative (Starting today in every latin american country except for Brazil) On Easter week one of the top stories you will see is Mormon.org Easter…

The Church has a lot of backlog on the profiles and they take a little bit of a lower profile at times.

 

Trials: Stretching or Shrinking the Soul

 

When I spend time with my father, the topic of human suffering often comes up. For him, as for many others, it is hard to fathom why a loving God allows or even causes trials and suffering at times. Human caused actions are awful, but massive natural disasters perhaps even harder to explain.
 
On my mission and since, I have thought a lot about these questions. I met some people who had endured far more than their fair share of heartbreak and sorrow. I met individuals that had suffered crippling illness, addiction, and terrible loss. Yet, I was well aware that for some people these experiences had refined them and helped them to become much more humble and Christlike while on the other hand for others these experiences led to bitterness and resentment. 
 
At the end of the great Nephite-Lamanite wars, the writers of the Book of Mormon reflected on a similar situation
 
“Alma 62: 41 But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.”
 
Is it any surprise that for some, as Charles Dickens noted, these truly were “the best of times,  while for others they were “the worst of times”?
 (Alma 50:23 “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi”
 
In one of the darkest moments of American History, Thomas Paine Opined “”These are the times that try men’s souls.”  
 
Likewise, as I have reflected I have realized that these moments of trial are what allow our souls to “Stretch” or to “Shrink.” These are the moments where God is able to “try us in all things” and to see if we will be obedient and faithful. Indeed, these moments are fundamental to allowing us to become more like the father and the son. It is quite easy to be a “summer soldier” or a “sunshine patriot ” for the cause of zion when things are going well and everything is fine. It is in the Valley Forges of our experience that we can truly show what our faith and fortitude is made of.
 
Indeed, without moments of trial and decision making is would be truly hard to become like God. The moments in our lives where we decide, for good or for ill, are those that shape our eternal identity and fate. For instance, when we decide to serve selflessly without thinking about ourselves, chose to turn the other cheek and withhold unkind words even when provoked or angry,  or chose faith over disbelief even as darkness enters our life. 
 
This continued believe even in the “dark night of our soul” can be incredibly difficult. It can push us to our very limits, It can break the faith of many, but ultimately when we endure we come across stronger and more committed. 
 
Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience
is wasted.” Such cosmic conservation! He continues, “It ministers to our education, to the
development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer
and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters,
purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more
worthy to be called the children of God.” 
 
Like Nephi, “I do not know the meaning of all things.” I do not know why a particular person faces a particular trial. I personally do not understand why my mother, on the most saintly people I have ever known, had to endure painful death from cancer. Sometimes the suffering we see is heart wrenching and utterly devastating. And yet, I know that God loves his children and that all that we endure comes from a loving father who knows us better than we can know ourselves.
 
2 Nephi 26: 23-24 For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
 
 
In conference in April 2012, President Eyring spoke about the suffering that he mother endured in her bout with cancer….
 
“My mother fought cancer for nearly 10 years. Treatments and surgeries and finally confinement to her bed were some of her trials.

I remember my father saying as he watched her take her last breath, “A little girl has gone home to rest.”

One of the speakers at her funeral was President Spencer W. Kimball. Among the tributes he paid, I remember one that went something like this: “Some of you may have thought that Mildred suffered so long and so much because of something she had done wrong that required the trials.” He then said, “No, it was that God just wanted her to be polished a little more.” I remember at the time thinking, “If a woman that good needed that much polishing, what is ahead for me?”

 
Like President Eyring, I know that my mothers trial with cancer ultimately ‘polished’ her and helped her to be ready to live with God forever. She endured and endured well. In her last moments, she spoke of her undying faith in God and belief that she would see her parents and see me again.  I do not understand why she was taken, but I do know that ultimately that trial made her and will make me stronger and ‘more meet for the kingdom’
 
I bear witness that God does not allow suffering out of antipathy or indifference, but on the contrary he tries us because he loves us.
“God, as a loving Father, will stretch our souls at times. The soul is like a violin string: it makes music only when it is stretched. . . . God will tutor us by trying us because He loves us, not because of indifference!” 
― Neal A. Maxwell